A long line of assassins flanks the path through lightweight, and it can take many years to slip by to the end. Arman Tsarukyan vs. Christos Giagos takes place this Saturday at UFC Vegas 37 in Las Vegas, where both men will engage in a grueling fight to get a few steps farther toward gold.
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Christos Giagos- Out of Left Field
Most expected Arman Tsarukyan (16-2) to get either a ranked fight or just under one. After staying just a half step behind Islam Makhachev in his debut, he has won three straight, looking more dangerous and polished with each fight. So when the opponent turned out to be Christos Giagos (19-8), it seemed out of place.
Giagos is tough opponent, but probably a handful of fight farther from ranked competition than Tsarukyan. He is on a two-fight win streak himself, but has only beat lower level competition in the UFC. What most likely happened is that the UFC matchmakers had a hard time finding a higher-caliber opponent for Tsarukyan, given how dangerous he is, but is not ranked.
Christos “The Spartan” Giagos
A veteran of twenty-seven fights, American Christos Giagos has built his MMA game off a wrestling background. He went 1-3 on his first UFC run, got cut, then fought for RFA and ACB en route to a second chance in the UFC.
In this run, he has won four of six, most recently against Sean Soriano. The 31 year-old BJJ brown belt has been training at Sanford MMA for the last year or so. He is at his best when he is employing a classic wrestling style, combining the sheer athleticism and grind of wrestling with world-class submission skills.
On his feet, he needs a little bit of work. Giagos has heavy hands but has not quite mastered the art of stance-switching that he attempts. He favors fighting southpaw, but when switches, he has trouble countering shots and ends up taking more damage from orthodox. With more time at Sanford MMA, the evolution of Giagos’s striking strategy will be something to watch in this fight, whether he stays in southpaw or has worked on the fluidity of stance-switching.
Arman “Ahalkalakets” Tsarukyan
The 24 year-old Armenian is one of the prospects to watch in the lightweight division. Like many fighters from the Caucusus region, Arman is an outstanding wrestler and pushes a wicked pace. Athletes from that region have varying degrees of success adapting their sambo techniques to MMA, and Tsarukyan is one of the best at doing so.
At lightweight, Tsarukyan is an elite athlete with a large frame and broad shoulders. Shooting for takedowns as much as he does in a given fight requires inhuman conditioning, and Tsarukyan does not get tired. He almost never shoots a blind takedown, but sets it up with punching combinations and chains together takedown after takedown until he gets it to the floor.
Once on the ground, Arman is never one to apply pressure without making progress to a finish. From all stages on the ground, he is punching or mixing in submission attempts. Against Matt Frevola in his latest outing, he found particular success in remaining in transitional stages like half guard and three-quarter mount, holding Frevola down, and dumping an outpouring of strikes.
His striking, like Giagos, is still a work in progress, yet is starting to craft an effective compliment to his grappling. His athleticism affords him fast hands and a solid jab, and with his work at American Top Team for this fight, it will be interesting to see what other facets to his striking that they have been able to add.
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Christos Giagos: The Breakdown
A common motif of grappler vs. grappler fights is a tendency that the fight stays standing, and we could see that here if one fighter believes their striking ability outmatches the other. Both fighters are big for the weight class, top-tier athletes, and are a menace on the ground, but where Tsarukyan edges ahead is his speed.
He is just a little bit faster of a striker and a scrambler, so wherever the fight goes, look for Tsarukyan to beat Giagos to the punch. If Giagos has not developed his ability to counter and slip strikes from orthodox stance, he is there for Arman to box without consequence. Still, striking is Giagos’s best bet at a win, if he can throw power at Arman and surprise him with a diversity of strikes- diversity is one of the few attributes that Giagos holds an advantage with striking.
Arman could also look to wear Giagos out by chain wrestling him the first round or two, and set up a late finish if Giagos tires. The fight is likely to go to a decision, especially if it remain on the ground. Look for Arman Tsarukyan to always stay one step ahead of the Greek American, widening the gap as the fight goes on.
Prediction: Arman Tsarukyan def. Christos Giagos via unanimous decision.
How to watch: Arman Tsarukyan vs. Christos Giagos is the third fight of the main card of UFC Vegas 37. The card airs on ESPN+ in the US, starting at 7pm EST / 4pm PST.
Featured Image for Arman Tsarukyan vs. Christos Giagos Preview:
Embed from Getty Images